Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1945
Three Woodcutters: Minor characters who comment, in symbolic language, on the progress of the hunt.
The Moon: A symbol of Fate, personified as a woodcutter, who speaks in symbolic, veiled verse.
A Beggar Woman: Although not on the cast listing, she appears suddenly and alludes to impending death. She is Death personified.
A Little Girl: She joins two other little girls onstage in playing with a ball of wool.
The scene opens ominously at night in a forest. This setting represents danger and nature in its unfettered glory. Three woodcutters appear, speaking of the couple—Leonardo and the Bride—escaping on horseback and the inevitable pursuit of the Bridegroom who is sworn to revenge. The Woodcutters comment on the reason for the escape: the lovers have followed their natural inclination and not bowed to society’s whims. They then comment on the inevitability of capture. All the paths are sealed off. If the moon comes out from behind the clouds, the added light will aid in the capture.
The third act is largely written in verse. As in early chapters, when the horse and a star were repeatedly emphasized, now the moon is. The moon is described with both positive and negative images. It is like fate, sometimes good and sometimes bad.
The Moon does appear, as a woodcutter personified, and gives a monologue, again veiled with images that allude to its light aiding the capture of Leonardo and the Bride. In this monologue, the images are malevolent. Although “blood” has been invoked throughout the play to symbolize different constructs, from passion to kinship, in this case “blood” refers to death.
With the conclusion of the Moon’s monologue, Death herself appears, in the form of an old beggar woman. Like the Moon, she speaks in verse, commenting on the action (which does not occur on stage) with symbolic language. Nature’s cover, the vast foliage and whisper of the river, conceal the ensuing murderous confrontation. The speech is portentous, and the Old Woman speaks with the authority of Death incarnate. She says there will be screams and the bodies of men whose throats have been torn.
The Moon reappears and the two continue to report on the battle in veiled, symbolic language. The two seem to work in tandem to insure that Fate prevails: “We won’t let them cross the river. Silence!” To further seal fate, the Beggar Woman gives the Bridegroom, who has stumbled across her path, directions to find his wayward bride and Leonardo. Her allusions make it clear that the Bridegroom will not survive the encounter: “Wait! What broad shoulders! Why don’t you want to be laid out on them, instead of walking around on the soles of such small feet?”
Under the portents of death, amply evoked in the lines of the Woodcutters, Leonardo and the Bride appear. They argue as they realize that they are hemmed in; escape is unlikely. Leonardo wants to leave the Bride, to spare her his fate. They argue about whose fault the predicament is. The argument continues and the characters begin conversing in verse, again with images that mingle death and love (life/birth): “I love you! I love you! But leave me! / If I were able to kill you, / I’d wrap you in a shroud / bordered by violets!” The conversation continues with each character using speech that mixes images of death (natural decay), violence, and murder. This encounter is perhaps the highlight of the play. The playwright’s stage directions indicate that it is to be “violent, filled with great sensuality.” The culmination of the scene is an embrace which equates death with sexuality and the brutally direct sexual image in the line: “The moon nails us together / My loins are fused to your thighs.”
The scene ends as the music is cut short by violent screams. The Beggar Woman appears with her back to the audience and opens her cloak. She is bat-like. Fate is now unfolding.
The final scene is but an epilogue to the violent passion that has just occurred. The stage directions at the beginning of the final scene are quite specific and without ambiguity. The predominant color is white, as if in marked contrast to all the dark events that have preceded. There are no shadows, and the room is reminiscent of a church.
As the scene opens, two of the girls are playing with a skein of wool, reciting a nursery rhyme: “Jasmine clothing, / Crystal paper. / Born at four, / Dead at ten.” The rhyme, as well as the wool, indicate how fate unravels, unavoidably. From the conversation that follows, it is clear that the bodies have been laid out.
The Mother-in-Law appears with the Wife. Even these minor characters have been left to a bitter fate. The Wife, who has not been at fault, is left a pregnant widow. She must return to her house and live alone in bitter solitude. Her children will most likely end up just like her, since the entire play alludes to the cyclic nature of predestined events: like father, like son; like mother, like daughter.
The Beggar Woman appears. When asked about the events that have passed, she relishes the fact that two men are dead. She speaks poetically, again, invoking images of death by comparing it to the callousness of nature: “Their eyes are broken flowers. Their teeth / are just two handfuls of frozen snow.”
The stage empties amidst the gloomy proclamations of the Girls and the Beggar Woman. The Mother and Neighbor enter. The Mother is resigned to her fate; she has had much practice burying her family. She will now be better off, she rationalizes, because now she doesn’t have to worry about anyone close to her dying. Her anguish is readily apparent. When the Bride enters, the Mother’s distraught anguish is augmented by the idea of revenge, which she tries to avoid. Nevertheless, she strikes the Bride and knocks her to the floor. The Neighbor plays peacemaker and tries to part them while the Bride says that she wants to die. She (most likely) lies, claiming, “they can bury me without any man ever having seen himself in the whiteness of my breasts!”
The Bride is very confused. She attempts to rationalize and diffuse responsibility for her decision to leave with Leonardo. Leonardo was her passion, the Bridegroom a mere opportunity at respectability and having a comfortable life. The confession is not accepted by the Mother. She remains bitter as other neighbors enter.
The final act unwinds, again, in verse, as the characters—Wife, Mother, Bride, and Little Girl—exchange allegorical lines mingling images of death, love, nature, and religion. The play ends with the Bride and the Mother both commenting on the image with which the whole play began—a mere knife and its capacity to end life.
The final act brings about the culmination of the predestined events that have been alluded to throughout the play. Nothing is left to chance. Free will is thwarted by fate. The fleeing couple has absolutely no chance of escape, and the Bridegroom has no chance of surviving the encounter. Tragedy will take its natural course.
As the play progresses, the symbolic elements that stress the omnipotence of fate become the central focus of the drama. While earlier acts contain allegorical lines and symbolic metaphors, the first scene in the final act is completely symbolic. García Lorca borrows a technique from medieval morality plays and personifies Death and Fate as an old beggar woman and the moon, respectively. Death, at the instruction of the playwright, does not appear on the character list, as if her appearance is a surprise. In human form, these figures speak with proclamations negating the ability of free will to overcome destiny. What’s more, they conspire to ensure the murderous encounter; the Beggar Woman who is Death gives the Bridegroom directions to find the fleeing couple and then accompanies him down to the river. The Moon, which in medieval texts is often a symbol of fate, shines at the opportune moment to reveal Leonardo and the Bride. Even the choice of the minor characters as woodcutters is highly symbolic: a woodcutter chops down a living tree, killing it. In this sense, the Woodcutters are a perfectly natural choice to report and comment on the pursuit and encounter.
With Blood Wedding (indeed, with his entire “rural trilogy”), García Lorca creates a landscape so rustic and primitive that it virtually stands outside of time. There are no modern objects with which one can place the play in a specific era, though the locale is most certainly rural Andalusia, a region of southern Spain. The most modern “tool” in the play is a gun, mentioned briefly by the Bride in her final passionate scene with Leonardo. In fact, one could surmise that the mention of the gun, the most modern symbol mentioned in the play, is an inadvertent slip by the playwright—it is hardly necessary. Next to the horses, moon, wheat, knife, dahlias and lace stockings, the gun is rather anachronistic.
Perhaps the most significant scene in the play is the passionate embrace between Leonardo and the Bride. García Lorca specifically states that this scene is to be sensuous and violent. The locale of the forest is also quite specific, and its lush vegetation implies fertility, while a dark night in the forest is an archetype for danger. In this sense, life and death are both present in the image of the forest. Furthermore, these very same symbols merge both in the dialogue up to and during the final embrace: “If they tear us apart, it will be / because I am dead.”
Since this scene is so highly symbolic, one should not assume or try to ascertain what actually occurs on a literal level; the details are relatively unimportant compared to the symbolic representations of the fragility of life and thwarted passion. The audience or readers know that the couple shared a primal passion (“blood”) for one another. This passion was fateful. We also know that the Bridegroom and Leonardo end up dead, down by the river, fulfilling the prophecy inherent in the lullaby from Act I, Scene 2. The Bride too has fulfilled her destiny, to not love her husband, just as her mother had not loved her father. The Bride’s claims of still being unsoiled must be taken with a grain of salt. The merging or mating of the Bride and Leonardo down by the river is allegorical, a symbolic representation of what actually occurred. Of course the Bride is guilty of infidelity, whether it be symbolic or actual. However, as has been stressed throughout the play, her fate was never her own. So she is, as she pleads, not truly responsible for her actions; the events (or skein of wool) could not have unfolded in any other manner.
Blood Wedding, in addition to fulfilling the criteria of a classical tragedy where characters lack free will, also contains allusions to Christianity a religion that stresses each person’s ability to choose right from wrong. The image of the lovers nailed together by the moon is an unmistakable reference to the crucifixion, especially with the Bride referring to the “thorns around my head.” With this metaphor, García Lorca equates the passion of the couple to the Passion of Christ. Additionally, the play ends with the Mother and the women chanting lines alluding to crucifixion: “Sweet, nails, / Sweet cross, / Sweet Name— / Jesus.” It is ironic that characters whose doom has been foretold rely on images from a religion whose dogma emphasizes free will.